Performing Arts

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Cissy

Cissy

Three Gender Plays: Nelly Boy, My Funny Valentine, and Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls
edition:Paperback
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Easy Street

Easy Street

edition:Paperback
also available: eBook
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Age of Unreason
Excerpt

Chapter 1

 

The words contained in the police report were leaked everywhere. They were on the front page of every newspaper.

The yellow Ford truck had quietly pulled up to the curb around 8:20 a.m. on Monday, April 13, 1981. It slid into a spot just a little bit past the entrance to 70 Forest Avenue in Portland, Maine. Back in the 1920s, someone had carved the words “YOUNG MEN’S CHRISTIAN ASSOCIATION” into the grey foundation stones. But the old building was now home to the YWCA — the men had moved to a much more modern space down the road.

The old building was a bit of a dump, and it creaked and wheezed like an old man. Its best feature was the main doors, positioned as they were beneath a spectacular archway, which architects called a lunette. This area was decorated with lovely leaded glass, which shimmered when the sun caught it.

Most weekdays it was pretty challenging to find a parking spot so close to the main doors. But not that day. The driver of the yellow truck had no difficulty finding a space. He’d been watching the place for weeks, the police figured, and he knew how busy it could be early in the morning.

The staff greeted one another as they arrived for work. It was an unusually warm spring day, and some of them were smiling and chattering about their weekends. Some paused to hold the door open for harried-looking parents dropping off their kids at the Y’s daycare.

The truck, it was later discovered, was the legal property of Roger Rentals of Boston, Massachusetts, but it had been assigned to a rental company — Macmillan’s Body Shop — way up in Newport, Vermont, near the Canadian border. A pair of bewildered employees at Macmillan’s would tell a small army of FBI agents that the truck had been driven off the lot a few days before the bombing, rented by a clean-cut young man who identified himself as Thomas M. Jones from Pulaski, Tennessee. Mr. Jones had told them he was helping a friend move. Thomas M. Jones was, in fact, the name of a long-dead lawyer, in whose offices the Ku Klux Klan was formed in Pulaski back in 1865. Jones had started the Klan along with some fellow former Confederate soldiers, mainly as a lark.

This modern-day Thomas M. Jones was a slender young man with a crew cut. When he smiled — which he apparently didn’t do a lot when he was at Macmillan’s — he had a broad, toothy grin that made him look like a teenager.

The five-story YWCA building had an ancient gym located on the main floor along with the daycare center. The administration and membership offices were housed on the second. On the upper floors were offices supporting an array of programs from summer camps to healthy living to veterans outreach. There were also a couple of converted classrooms, where the YWCA and YMCA did a booming business offering ESL classes for a modest fee. The women’s health and well-being offices were up there, too. They offered women and girls advice on reproductive health.

The investigators discovered that for the four days prior to the bombing, Thomas M. Jones had been renting a room at the Holiday Inn across the road from the Maine Mall in South Portland. He’d parked the yellow rental truck in the lot out back, in a spot that could be readily seen from his room. On the inn’s register, he had used the long-dead Klansman’s name, but it turned out he had entered a real mailing address in the registry: a P.O. box in Mobile, Alabama. The FBI would quickly determine, however, that the P.O. box was registered to the United Klans of America. The man had paid cash for his room and didn’t leave behind a single fingerprint or anything else that gave any hint to his true identity.

That Monday morning, the man everyone would soon know as Thomas M. Jones drove the yellow rental truck downtown and parked it on Forest Avenue. He then hopped out of the truck, locked the door, and walked west.

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